What Hollywood Can Teach Sales Staff About Selling to Seniors

For any salesperson working with Baby Boomers and a senior clientele, a productive sales strategy takes a lesson in empathy, not sympathy. Luckily, there are several cues sales personnel can take from Hollywood and the silver screen in their marketing efforts.

Empathy is the most important ingredient in lasting relationships, says Jim Gilmartin, principal of Coming of Age, a full-service marketing agency focused on advertising to Baby Boomers (b. 1946-1964) and senior customers.

“We all want to be understood by those who want to sell us something,” Gilmartin writes in a recent article. “When we think we are not understood, we erect defenses against those trying to connect with us or try to sell us something.”

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One way to build an empathetic connection with an older customer is through method acting, a technique used by actors in which they put themselves directly in the thoughts and feelings of the character they are trying to portray. This enables them to understand the inner workings of that character on a more intimate, yet vicarious level.

But for salespeople working with an older demographic, one doesn’t necessarily need to have the acting chops of famed multiple Academy Award-winning method actor Daniel Day Lewis (My Left Foot, 1989; There Will Be Blood, 2007: Lincoln, 2012).

Rather, anyone can simply do as a trained method actor does, by imagining oneself to be one of your prospects and vicariously feel what they feel, Gilmartin says.

For example, when a customer says, “My memory isn’t what it used to be,” Gilmartin suggests responding with something like, “Let me tell you, I searched nearly an hour yesterday for my car keys. You know where they were? In the car—on the front seat.”

Vulnerability “humanizes” both sides in a relationship, Gilmartin says. And the same goes for sales relationships between the seller and the prospect.

“[M]any books have been written on how to sell to customers using self-serving logic: ‘Do this and such and such will happen.’ ‘Don’t do this and you risk such and such calamity,'” Gilmartin writes. “Taking a more collaborating and consultative approach in presenting your products to Baby Boomers is more effective.”

Read the Coming of Age article.

Written by Jason Oliva

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